Cubs 4 @ Pirates 3
Samardzija’s Last Ride
The Cubs put the word out sometime on Friday, Jeff Samardzija’s final appearance this season would be his start in Pittsburgh on Saturday. It was one of Jeff’s better starts of the season. He threw a complete game on 120 pitches, four hits, three runs, and just one walk. He also struck out nine Pirates. For a game that started poorly; single, sac, HBP, walk, two-run single…Samardzija regrouped and only allowed one further run. That final run was unearned when Rod Barajas reached via a Castro error in the 7th. That run tied the game and for a moment it looked like Samardzija’s effort might be wasted.
Dale Sveum took a margarita-soaked page from Tony LaRussa’s managerial pamphlet – on Saturday he used Jeff Samardzija in the eighth spot in the lineup and let Campana hit ninth. Mr. Katie Campana had no complaints, he was elated to merely be in the lineup. But in the 8th inning it helped the Cubs push across the winning run. Welington Castillo singled, and after Barney grounded out the eighth spot was due up. Samardzija also grounded out, but even with the 9th spot due up, the lineup had effectively turned over with only two outs. Campana drew a walk, DeJesus blasted a game-winning single to right field and the Cubs had won their 53rd of the season.
Darwin Barney now holds the record for consecutive errorless games at 2B – in the NL. On Saturday he passed Hall of Famer and Cubs’ legend, Ryne Sandberg with his 124th consecutive errorless game this year. He has enough remaining games to pass the MLB single season record holder, Placido Polanco, who had a streak of 141 games in 2007. He’s certainly doing everything he can to earn a gold glove.
Even with the win, the Cubs had missed opportunities all day long. They had 10 hits to go with 4 walks and 4 stolen bases. However, they managed just 1 hit with runners in scoring position all day. It’s a minor miracle that the Cubs pulled this game out, but frankly the Pirates look ready to fold up and play their way out of contention. A week from now, I bet they’ve faded into an also-ran.
Cubs 4 @ Pirates 2
Broom In The Other Hand
After getting hammered in Washington, the Cubs flipped the script and swept the Pirates this weekend in Pittsburgh. The Cubs have 6 road wins since the All-Star Break, 5 of them have come at PNC Park.
Jogging Around The Bases
On Sunday, the Cubs hit 3 long balls. On either sides of another Dave Sappelt out in the fourth inning, Josh Vitters and Anthony Recker each hit solo shots. Who is Anthony Recker you ask? We haven’t talked about it much (if at all) here at VFTB, but on 8/27 the Cubs dealt minor league catcher Blake Lalli to the A’s for Recker (essentially a backup catcher). Today Recker got his first start as a Cub and hit his first bomb as a Cub. Vitters improved his average to .085 – hooray! But it was Alfonso Soriano’s two-run eighth inning blast that propelled the Cubs to victory.
Russell officially got two guys out, walked one (intentionally), and got the win. Unofficially, he’s a freakin’ idiot. Overly concerned about the threat of Andrew McCutchen stealing second base, Russell made the most obvious balk you might ever see. The problem? At third base stood the tying run. His balk tied the game at 2 in the seventh inning, only Soriano’s homer saved Russell from being today’s goat.
There’s something about Chris Rusin that I really like – and I can’t exactly put my finger on it. I can probably best sum it up by saying that his confidence and aggressive style of pitching demand respect. He’s not afraid – not afraid to give up a hit, not afraid to throw hittable pitches, not afraid to put his defense to work behind him. That’s not to say that he’s throwing batting practice, but he’s not a nibbler. The Nationals took advantage of that in his last appearance, but today he pitched a solid 5 innings and managed to keep the Pirates off the scoreboard after a 1st inning bomb to McCutchen (no shame there). He threw first pitch strikes to 15 of the 22 hitters he faced, and while he walked 3 – none of them came around to score.
For a second straight day, the Cubs banged out double digit hits (12 on Sunday) and had a miserable performance with RISP (0-7); but somehow they also won on Sunday. It was a bit easier to understand with the HRs, but they weren’t particularly patient or efficient on Sunday either. Striking out 10 times, not one Cub saw as many as 20 pitches – no starter drew a walk.
Other than Russell’s gaffe, the bullpen was really good on Sunday. Four innings with two hits and just the one run. They sprinkled in 5 walks, but again – none of them came around to score.
Sappelt got his first hit as a Cub today. I’d say it won’t be his last, but it actually might be…